Police Commissioner Bealefeld in his own words

(Kenneth K. Lam )
May 05, 2012|By Peter Hermann

The announced departure of Baltimore Police CommissionerFrederick H. Bealefeld III prompted a round of media interviews on Friday. Here are parts of my sit-down with the commissioner. A story looking ahead to what's next is planned for Sunday.

On Friday, Bealefeld said that he was indeed leaving for family, brushing off copious rumors that he and other members of the city's law enforcement team, such as political aide Sheryl Goldstein, had other motives. Here's a story about departures from City Hall.

Bealefeld quotes;

Why leaving

“The real story is I’m going to be 50 in August. I know people keep saying, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re this young kid.’ But I’ve been doing this for 31 years. I don’t feel like a young kid. Thirty-one years is a long time to be doing this kind of work, at this pace, and I’m anxious to do something new in my life. And I figure that 50 is the right moment to go in another direction and discover something new.”

On Violence

“There’s still a long way to go. That’s why I say that I tried to spend a lot of time convincing the rank and file that what they were doing now, what they did the past five years, was not the Fred Bealefeld show. It was their show. It was a testament to what they could get done in this city. And we have incrementally reduced the homicide non fatal shooting rate these five years. I’m optimistic that if we stay on this strategy, where they’ll be in the next five years.”

Police misconduct

“I can tell you right now, don’t put your microphones or your pens down, because there will be more cases and more cases soon about corrupt police officers. … And the fact of the matter is if you run an agency this size, a department this size, there is trouble. If you have a ten-person police force, you ought to be looking. … It’s never been a surprise to me that we hunted these guys down. Always disappointing. But not a surprise because we went looking for it. … It’s a human business and sometimes humans fail.”

His replacement

“I think there are a lot of talented people here, inside the Police Department. … I wouldn’t discount people inside, but I know what Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s vision is, what she wants from the department, especially as it relates community engagement. So she should look to see if there are people inside the department that can deliver that. But I would encourage her the same process that was convened for my selection. What the people of this city, 650,000, are entitled to and deserve, and what the 3,000 sworn and civilian members of this department deserve, is the very best leadership she can find. If that means going outside the department, she should do that.”

His crime fighting strategy

“I think we changed the culture of policing. We went from 100,000 arrests a year to half that number and we got better results. .. You can tell them to stop arresting people, but you still have to get results. You still have to make people safe. Today, we are minus 7, minus 17. … Down 7 homicides, down 17 nonfatal shootings. So they continue to get the job done. I’m confident, because the mayor endorsed our strategy when she took office. She embraced it and empowered us to continue it. I’m confident there are a lot of very courageous young men and young women in this police department who aren’t going to be led away from success.”

Frustrating that people still view city as unsafe

“I think it’s going to take a long time for this city to convince itself that the schools are improving, that public safety is improving. I think it’s going to take years of success. Because it comes with qualifiers. Yes, you’re at the lowest homicide rate since 1977, but per-capita it’s still high.”

What will you do now

“I don’t know. I know this. Whether I sell widgets or I take walks in the woods and take photographs of flowers, I just want to be passionate about what I do. … I want to play golf. I want to fish. I miss the shag run, again. I don’t know what my future holds. I’m nervous about it.”

His blunt speaking style

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